ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Administration Tightens Offshore Drilling Rules.

The Washington Post  (4/14, Warrick) reports that five years after the BP spill, the Administration on Monday moved to “tighten regulations for offshore oil rigs, saying the new measures would help prevent oil-well blowouts and minimize environmental damage from future leaks.” The Department of the Interior announced proposals that would “substantially overhaul the technical guidelines for drilling on the US continental shelf, adding dozens of new requirements aimed mostly at stopping high-pressure undersea wells from blowing their tops.”

McClatchy  (4/13, Cockerham, Subscription Publication) reports the rule “calls for tighter requirements on blowout preventers,” among other things. Secretary of Interior Jewell said, “These proposed measures are designed to further build on critical lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy to ensure that offshore operations are safe.”

The New York Times  (4/14, Davenport, Baker, Subscription Publication) reports that officials said the new regulations were “developed after consulting industry representatives, environmentalists, academics and others interested in the issue,” and Interior estimated that they “would cost about 90 companies a total of $883 million over 10 years, but officials said many firms were already moving toward compliance on their own and predicted $656 million in net benefits over the next decade.”

Higher Education

GAO Study Examined Tracking Of Demographic Data Of STEM Grant Winners.

According to The Hill  (4/14, Trujillo), a new report from the Government Accountability Office shows that the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Agriculture track demographic data on the recipients of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) grants. The GAO found that the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and NASA do not collect “information on sex and race of grant winners,” for reasons including “confusion over whether they were allowed to legally do so.” The Hill adds that the report “was commissioned by a group of House Democrats who are looking to increase female and minority voices in STEM fields.”

Forgiving Corinthian 100 Debt Could Cost Billions.

The AP  (4/14, Hefling, Horwitz) reports that a number of Senators and state attorneys general are supporting the efforts of a number of former Corinthian Colleges Inc. students to have their debts forgiven, but such a move “could cost the federal government billions” and allow “other former for-profit students — or other unhappy borrowers — to seek similar relief.” The piece notes that Corinthian imploded last year “under pressure from the Education Department,” and quotes Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying, “These are tragic stories and I’m extraordinarily sympathetic and really want to do what is right and fair.” The piece includes a Q&A about the plight of the Corinthian 100 and other struggling student loan consumers.

Corinthian Debt Striker Profiled. The Santa Cruz (CA) Sentinel  (4/13) profiles Makenzie Vasquez, a waitress from Santa Cruz, California, who owes $30,000 “in student loans at an eight-month medical assisting program at Everest College in San Jose that she says locked her out before she could finish.” Vasquez and the other Corinthian 100 are “refusing to pay their student loans,” citing part of the Higher Education Act that allows borrowers to “fight federal student loan collection if their school violated state law.”

Colleges Raising Tuition As State Support Wanes.

Caralee Adams writes at the Education Week  (4/14) “College Bound” blog that according to a new report from the State Education Executive Officer Association, colleges are boosting tuition for the third year running to offset stagnant state higher education support. The piece reports that tuition now makes up 47.1% of public college revenues, while this figure was 25% in 1989.

The Washington Post  (4/13, Douglas-Gabriel) reports in its “Wonkblog” blog that given declining state revenues, colleges are “increasingly relying on money from families paying ever-rising tuition.” The report notes that states actually increased higher education spending last year, but “tuition accounted for nearly half of public school revenue for the third year in a row.” Student advocates say that “college has become unaffordable for many families because of lower funding from state governments.”

New Education Models Eroding Grad School Employment.

An analysis in the Washington Post  (4/13, Selingo) argues that there is a “downward trend in graduate enrollment” stemming from a “permanent shift in how today’s working adults acquire education throughout their lifetimes.” The piece notes that traditionally, advancing careers relied on graduate-level education. Now, however, non-traditional higher education options such as Khan Academy, General Assembly, Skillshare, Lynda.com, Coursera, and Dev Bootcamp, “are starting to attract students who normally would have pursued a graduate degree or certificate.” Such programs “offer short spurts of content…when students need it instead of giving them a full helping of a degree.”

From ASEE
March+April Prism now online (members only)
Cover Story: “Growing Pains.” Ethiopia is pushing engineering education harder than any other country In Africa, creating challenges for its academics.

VIDEOS – Watch the speakers and presentations from the Engineering Research Council meeting, held in March.

VIDEOS – Watch a collection of talks from the Public Policy Colloquium, held in February. (Due to audio problems, not all talks were captured.)

ASEE Perks
Learn about the broad collection of benefits available to ASEE members.

Workforce

Study: Faculty Biased Toward Women For College Science Jobs.

The Christian Science Monitor  (4/13) reports that according to research from Cornell University, “when hundreds of U.S. college faculty members rated junior scientists” to determine which should be hired, “they preferred women over identically qualified men two-to-one.” Noting that the study was part of an attempt to “explain women’s underrepresentation in academic science,” the article reports that co-author Wendy Williams of Cornell said that the “bias toward women ‘was totally unexpected.’” The piece reports that researchers suggested that “this apparent female advantage was because women who overcome the hurdles to a STEM Ph.D. are generally stronger candidates than male counterparts.”

Website Encourages Women In The Oil, Gas Industry.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune  (4/13, Larino) reports on women’s role in the energy industry, pointing to “Pink Petro, a private social networking website and mobile application for men and women in the industry to confront some of the tougher reasons for why women leave careers in energy.” The article reports that “the network, sponsored by Halliburton and Shell Oil Co., has more than 700 users in 12 countries since launching March 11,” and “aims to have 30,000 to 50,000 by the end of this year.” Peggy Montana, CEO of Shell Midstream Partners, said, “Not everyone in the industry needs to be an engineer.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Blog: States Ahead Of Feds In Fracking Regulations.

Kathleen Sgamma, VP of Government and Public Affairs at Western Energy Alliance, writes for The Hill  (4/14, Sgamma) in its “Congress Blog” that the Department of the Interior’s recent announcement about upgrading fracking rules to provide states with an example to follow is useless as “states have not been waiting for the Federal government.” She points that many states have enacted rules to protect the environment and regulate fracking, with Colorado having started more than a decade ago. Sgamma writes that Colorado and Wyoming are among the strictest states, while North Dakota, Texas, and “all western states with sizable oil and natural gas development… updated their rules well before the Federal government jumped in.” She adds that in addition to belated regulations, “Federal government… inefficiencies have already discouraged development on Federal lands.”

Open Society Report: US Drone Program Endangering Civilians.

The New York Times  (4/14, Shane, Subscription Publication) reports that an investigation by the Open Society Justice Initiative has concluded that “the Obama administration has not followed its own rules to avoid civilian casualties and is setting a dangerous example for other countries that want to use unmanned aircraft against terrorists.” The report questions how carefully the strikes were planned, based on the analysis of several strikes in Yemen, which found that often targets are missed and civilians, instead, are killed. Primary author of the report, Amrit Singh, said, “We’ve found evidence that President Obama’s standard is not being met on the ground,” adding that “there’s a real question about whether the near-certainty standard is being applied in practice.”

Collins Introduces Resolution To Block FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules.

USA Today  (4/14, Yu) reports Rep. Doug Collins on Monday introduced a resolution “calling for a fast-track review of the newly proposed net neutrality rules, a likely futile legislative move that highlights the no-stone-unturned fight put up by the rules’ opponents.” The resolution, introduced under the Congressional Review Act, allow Congress to “fast-track review and vote to disapprove new regulations issued by government agencies,” but requires the President’s signature, which is highly unlikely.

Elementary/Secondary Education

STEM Support Ranks Highest In California Spending Priorities Poll.

The Los Angeles Times  (4/14, Blume) reports that a new survey by USC Dornsife and the Los Angeles Times shows that computer access is “important” to California voters, but support for STEM subjects, the arts, increased teacher salaries, and literary materials were all prioritized higher for funding than technology. Only 20% of respondents said technology was one of two top options for funding, compared with 49% for math, science, and technology instruction, the most popular choice. The paper notes that an effort to invest in supplying tablets to students in Los Angeles “collapsed” because of “high costs, missteps, and eroding political support.”

Girl Scout Robotics Team Qualifies For FIRST World Championship.

The Times of Trenton (NJ)  (4/14, Mulvaney) reports that the We Are Girl Scouts robotics team from Mercer County, New Jersey has qualified for the FIRST robotics world championship in St. Louis on April 22-25. The team consists of 13 girls representing eight Girl Scout troops and has created outreach events to promote STEM activities, especially for girls.

Michigan Robotics Team Qualifies For FIRST World Competition With Rookie All-Star Award. The Southgate (MI) News Herald  (4/13, Khzouz) reports that the Grosse Ile FIRST robotics team has won a spot in the world competition based on their Rookie All-Star Award at the Michigan state competition on April 9 to 11. The award recognizes new teams that show a “commitment to spreading passion” about science and technology to their peers and community. The team mentored in a FIRST Lego League at a nearby middle school, helped develop a new robotics team for the district, created a high school robotics curriculum, and proposed a long-term fundraising business plan.

South Florida Teen’s STEM Achievements Profiled.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel  (4/15, Engoren) reports that the Florida Virtual School’s Jillian Hanley, who won first place for a zoology project, received a “Taking the Pulse of the Planet” award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and competes in the FIRST competition, is a “great example” of the students state and Federal programs are hoping to develop with STEM initiatives.

Monday’s Lead Stories

New Fed CAFE Standards, Customer Demand Lead To Development Of Lighter Cars.
Western Carolina University Establishes Robotics Scholarship.
NSF Gives UT-Arlington Professor Grant To Build Nanoscale Pillars.
FAA Permits Amazon To Test Delivery Drones.
Ocean Desalination Plants Being Studied, Built By Many California Cities.
North Carolina Robotics Team To Compete In St Louis.

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